11.4.13

Interview: Mindgrrind Settles the 'Core'

In this interview, Mindgrrind settles the 'core' with Unscene Berlin, discussing her love of speedcore, splattercore, splittercore, breakcore, hardcore... basically, anything over 180 bpm!
"You should never be told what you want, what to worship or who to be, yet in our society, we have been SOLD these ideals.  Do whatever makes your heart sing and sometimes it means sticking your middle finger up!"

The green haired lead singer of Skat Injector is marauding around the stage with the mic, belting out a tirade of raw aural energy.  The restless crowd below her reels and ricochets off each other in a nonstop, chain-reaction of movement & sound.  To all appearances it is a punk gig, except for a few crucial details: the “stage” is actually the back of a sound system van at the Fuck Parade, one of Berlin’s biggest techno street parties.  While the drag queen's vocals belong in a grindcore band, the beats are machine-gun gabba.  Even the singer's voice, the only organic feature of the electric torrent of frustration pouring out the speakers, is a rough-edged sine wave that blends into the industrial soundscape.   The float that Skat Injector are playing on was organized by the Splatterkore collective, of which Zoe Mindgrrind is one of the founding members.  

“My father once commented ‘You don’t listen to music at the right speed do you?’” says Zoe, who loves most forms of electronic music that end in the word ‘core’:  Flashcore, speedcore, cybercore, splittercore and, of course, splatterkore.  

“My favourite music exhibits dark or droney themes over fast or punchy kicks," she says.  "[It] contains different layers that resonate with different parts of the body; a grounding bass kick, sensual percussion and dreamy melodies or synths.  I also love really slow nihilistic and industrial sounds and the good old 303".

She continues: "I crave for music to be powerful and overwhelming.  I am willing to travel to any party in any country for this powerful transformative music because, to me, it is special and worth the effort.  I want the music to lead the journey.”

It was that journey that led to Splatterkore playing the Fuck Parade in 2010. 

“We went on a chaotic European tour for three months in 2010 which ended at Fuck Parade in Berlin with ‘Fuck Off Sound system’."  After visiting Berlin, "the idea of returning to England was so unappealing. I hate all the restrictions and how the citizens of the UK have been usurped of self-responsibility.”  By contrast, she says: “[In Berlin] you will be supported in your creative experiments. People are interested in the creative culture here and the nightlife is unique and diverse. I survive on less money than I did in the UK and still live quite a decent and exciting life here and not feel like I am trapped in a little bubble. So I popped back to do a few short courses, raise a bit of money and then moved back to Berlin permanently.”

Like many English expats, Zoe has come to Berlin with a proactive attitude of wanting to start up something new here.  But, whereas the current wave of English expats moving to Berlin comes with a business plan in hand and a commercial start-up in mind, Zoe is interested in starting up a more psycho-spiritual type of project that fills the gaps left by a 'traditional business model'. The so called 'start-up boom' may have allowed Berlin to don a slightly posher, designer mantle, but the slew of incoming business school graduates are homogenizing Berlin, killing off experimentation in preference of more surefire recipes for success.  

“Splatterkore's mission was to provide creative misfits with a platform and a community, [taking] influences from DIY Punk, Hakim Bey, Free Party movement, Fully Immersive trance parties.  We also wield magick and chaos by using Lunar cycles for our releases as a promotional tool. We try to fuse genres, stimulate and innovate."   Hard to imagine a bank manager signing off on that model of business... which is exactly why it is so necessary.   Because banks are not known for their commitment to ideals that exist at any level above or beyond 'the bottom line'.  

The tendency to place materialistic success over above all else has clearly trickled down into electronic music, which has become more competitive, male-dominated and homogenous as it has gone mainstream.  As Zoe puts it, "It is less about the art and the skills they develop in order to express themselves, and more about how badass and heavy, or macho they sound.  It's shallow, it's boring and more often than not, they are better off samplng delta 9, dj hidden or hellfish for maximum br00tality. And many do. Our motto is, 'Fuck your ego scene wars! We are one!'  We’re all about non-attachment, always pushing for something new and diverging from nostalgia and ‘purity’. '” 

In the Splatterkore genre, says Zoe, “it is OK to be technically shit so long as the passion and creativity are being channelled effectively.” That passion and creativity doesn’t stop at the music itself; Splatterkore's performers and crowd also prefer chaotic formlessness over formulaic parties, presumably because the former feeds creativity. 

“The best parties are usually tight-knit and invite-only in bizarre locations like forts or underground caves,” explains Zoe.  “The atmosphere is much more like a technologically advanced ritual than a mess-fest.”  In this sense, Splatterkore sounds like a natural successor to the free party scene of Europe in the 1990s.  Zoe tends to agree with their holistic attitude towards the rave phenomenon.  “Electronic music DOES have strong, deep ideas behind them - philosophical, political, spiritual - just as any other music does.  We also have a strong community focus.”

While more mainstream elements of Berlin's dance scene may seek to escape larger social problems through self-imposed isolation, Splatterkore doesn't bother with such utopian pretences.  Instead, Zoe acknowledges and challenges the flaws of a dance music scene.  

"[Male electronic artists] blame themselves for not being good enough and it becomes about pleasing other people, rather than self-expression. I guess this is what happens when you operate from the mind and not the heart, and women definitely have the advantage of being more in tune with their emotions. Lack of self-confidence in their creative abilities is definitely a contributing factor to them singling other artists out and bully them."

Zoe adds that, "People - even our supporters - pack together and mud-sling 'all in good internet jokey fun'.  I will not tolerate bullying and will tirelessly challenge it anywhere I see it happening because I don't want this attitude destroying the passion of people our community.  Letting bullying slide is unacceptable.  It is the exact reason we established the collective in the first place.”

I first met Zoe through a friend who, like her, was involved in English writing projects here in Berlin.     

"Pretty much my entire teenage life is documented in journals," Zoe says.  " Writing has always helped me reach into the murky depths of my psyche. It is through writing (and erm, psychoactive substances) that I really came to learn about myself."

Currently Zoe is a journalistic team leader at Sensa Nostra Magazine (Formerly xxxtravaganza). The philosophy behind Sensa Nostra is very similar to the one behind Splatterkore:  “It’s ‘not just aiming to excite something basic within the minds of the drooling masses but to educate, inspire and enlighten people to alternative, sometimes controversial topics.”
"Without a spiritual focus, a movement like this doesn’t generate the kind of emotional energy that it needs to battle against global capitalism—that for which there is no other reality, according to most people" - Hakim Bey.  The anarchist writer is one of Zoe's influences.
“I have deep interests in the culturally obscure, transgressive arts and spirituality so it’s quite easy for me to find sources," she says.  "I have covered many topics from bestiality to prostitution to drugs to noise music.  These ‘weird people’ who the average person would liken to a leper, deserve a voice. In fact, I believe they are our greatest teachers because they are above inherited social patterns.”

"It is my job [...] to effectively explain their lifestyle, ideas or interests and then craft them in a way so that others far-removed from it can understand them and see them as human beings again. If not that, hopefully provide comfort to other alienated people.” She could just as well be summarizing the role of Splatterkore collective itself.  

With all the new faces pouring into Berlin looking for photogenic moments, cheap holidays and prepackaged history, it is easy to forget that there are still plenty of people like Zoe arriving here every year.  They are not simply searching for a leg up onto the property ladder or a cheap way to raise their business profile, though their interests are often drowned out by those who are.  Instead of looking for an easy way into the established, corrupt system, they are trying to change it... or even to replace it with something better.  At a time when Berlin is becoming increasingly inhospitable for people like Zoe, it is important to remember that they were among the first real innovators in post-Wall Berlin.  They put Berlin on the map for experimental businesses in the first place... the same businesses that now risk squeezing them out.  

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.